September 14, 2011

Acceptance of equal rights for gays undermines religion

One reason that religious rhetoric in politics is on the rise these days is because of the uncertain economic outlook. When people are fearful of their future, they tend to lash out and seek others to blame and it is easy for politicians to direct their attention to scapegoats. Blaming economic and social problems as being due to god's dissatisfaction with our behavior has always been popular trope for a certain segment of the public, going back to biblical times. It is easy for politicians to take advantage of the vanity of people thinking that they have a good idea of what their god wants, which always conveniently happens to coincide with what they themselves want. But working against them is the general decline of religion itself. As I explained in my series Why atheism in winning, the signs of decline of religion are unmistakable and I strongly suspect that religious leaders know this and are desperately seeking ways to at least slow down the process.

The most telling sign is that surveys show that people are leaving religion in significant numbers, with the greatest drop being among young people. This is why the stakes have been raised, in a desperate attempt by religious leaders to regain ground by making hysterical claims that the lack of religion is causing America's problems. While they point to general moral decay that is supposedly bringing about god's wrath, one of their key signs is the increasing acceptance of gay people as deserving of the same rights enjoyed by others, including marriage.

The irony is that the more religious leaders decry the increasing acceptance of homosexuals, the more they alienate young people, the very group that they need to secure their future. As Adam Lee points out:

Over the last few decades, society in general, and young people in particular, have become increasingly tolerant of gays and other minorities. For the most part, this is a predictable result of familiarity: people who've grown up in an increasingly multicultural society see less problem with interracial relationships (89% of Generation Nexters approve of interracial marriage, compared to 70% of older age groups) and same-sex marriage (47% in favor among Nexters, compared to 30% in older groups). When it comes to issues like whether gays and lesbians should be protected from job discrimination or allowed to adopt, the age gap in support is even more dramatic (71% vs. 59% and 61% vs. 44%, respectively).

But while American society is moving forward on all these fronts, many churches not only refuse to go along, they're actively moving backward. Most large Christian sects, both Catholic and Protestant, have made fighting against gay rights and women's rights their all-consuming crusade. And young people have gotten this message loud and clear: polls find that the most common impressions of Christianity are that it's hostile, judgmental and hypocritical. In particular, an incredible 91% of young non-Christians say that Christianity is "anti-homosexual", and significant majorities say that Christianity treats being gay as a bigger sin than anything else.

This rise is similar to the way that acceptance of interracial dating and marriage among the young increased with time as more and more young people did not see any problems with it. Currently 86% of people approve of interracial marriages, up from just 4% in 1958. Again, young people are more accepting than old people, with senior citizens with 66% approval being the lowest group.


Many religious people and groups are locked into an anti-gay stance that they cannot free themselves from. While some are trying to soften their message with variations of the 'hate the sin, love the sinner' circumlocution of the Catholic church, this is widely seen as a sham. Most religious institutions simply cannot escape being seen as intolerant and hateful.

So instead of religion defeating homosexuality, the increasing acceptance of equal rights for gays will accelerate the decline of religion.


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An important post, Mano. For those who haven't seen it, "For the Bible Tells Me So" is an important documentary to watch for anyone interested in these matters.

Posted by Tim on September 14, 2011 05:15 PM

i must also bring attention to a very dangerous trend in our Military- basically mandated conversation to fundemnetalism. I am sorry not to have specifics but FSTV presentation of " Constataines's Sword," touches on these, and a recent presentation of " Fautllines," delves into this. i am sorry it is early and wish i had better sourcing. It is obvious that brainwashing people with guns and bombs is not a good thing

Posted by pete on September 17, 2011 08:41 AM